YAKIMA -- Dave Cowan replaced two pickups. Gene Gamache bought three new tractors. Ben Fisher purchased a chipper.
Farming has been that good.
"You've got to be in pretty bad shape to not be making money this year," said Cowan, a Yakima County Farm Bureau board member and diversified fruit grower in Grandview.
That was the overall mood Thursday at the third annual Yakima Ag Expo at the SunDome, which continued Friday.
Buoyed by high prices and a weak dollar, farmers throughout the Yakima Valley and the nation saw a profitable 2011. Those good times ripple throughout the economy as farmers keep seasonal employees longer, farm suppliers hire more workers and vendors sell more fertilizer, tractors and -- for the more technically inclined -- GPS guidance systems that take a lot of the guesswork out of field work.
"It's all tied together," said Gamache, a third-generation Moxee apple and hop grower.
Not every crop is booming, but nationwide, farmers fared well last year, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
December statistics forecast that net farm income would be $100 billion in 2011, up 28 percent from 2010 and 50 percent higher than the 10-year average since 2001.
Farm-life comedian Jerry Carroll has witnessed it. Farmers, often used to making do with used equipment, are buying brand new this time.
"It's everywhere, every-where I've been," said Carroll, who entertained expo-goers with a stand-up routine. "The ag economy is the best I've ever seen it."
Carroll grew up farming in Raleigh, N.C., and still owns a 100-acre soybean and oat farm. He performs 60 to 80 shows a year for agricultural-related groups throughout North America.
Economists pin the rosy news on a favorable supply-and-demand picture, which is driving up prices, and a low exchange rate for the U.S. dollar, which is making American exports attractive to buyers in South Korea, Japan and other markets.